Wednesday this week marked a few milestones for North Central Montana Transit, and the buses roll on with increasing numbers of riders.
One landmark was the second anniversary of the first bus sent out on Aug. 24, 2009. In the rest of that year, the bus carried 4,767 passengers. In all of 2010, that number was up to 19,805. Now, with four months left to top that record, the transit system has carried 14,131 passengers, even with fares added this year.
Jim Lyons, the transit system’s director, is confident they will top 20,000 passengers by year’s end.
“We moved a tremendous amount of folks, ” Lyons said. “Over the summer we moved 500 or 600 people a week. Now, going back to school, we’re seeing steady growth.
“The fares are doing great. ”
A large part of the summer traffic comes from all of the children who go to the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line on North Central Montana Transit buses. This route came to an end on Wednesday.
With that popular summer route over, Lyons and the transit system are looking at possible changes or additions to bus lines to keep the growth going.
One plan being considered is an expansion of their existing Great Falls line that currently carries passengers from the Hi-Line south every Tuesday and Thursday. Because of the high ridership so far, they may shift to a three-day-a-week route, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“It kind of makes more sense, ” Lyons said, “if someone wants to go down on Monday, visit on Tuesday and come back on Wednesday. ”
The Great Falls service could also inherit the transit system’s “sprinter” bus that currently operates on the daily route to Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
Lyons said that they have also been looking at possible routes out to the west to that side of the county.
With all of these changes, as well as preparations for another winter and attempts to organize some local fuel production, North Central Montana Transit and Lyons are busier than ever and looking to get even busier.